Thousands of Palestinians are desperate to flee the war-torn Gaza following heavy bombardment by the Israeli Defence Force. More than 26,000 people – mostly women and children have been killed by the Israelis and more than 64,000 wounded since Hamas militants attacked the Kibbutz in October last year.
A South African medic Dr Seshni Reddy who is waiting to write her board exams in the country, has been in touch with many friends in Palestine. Dr Reddy paints a grim picture of the situation in Gaza.
According to her doctor friend, Mahmoud Abujundi and his family were forced to move to Khan Younis Refugee Camp in Gaza as he was born with refugee status. His grandfather had been displaced in Nakba (mass displacement) in 1948.
Dr Reddy who studied medicine with Dr Abujundi in China faced severe challenges to become a doctor. He graduated last year returning home in the hope of serving and uplifting the community.
She said: “Within the week of him applying to work in a hospital, the conflict began in October in the Gaza Strip. Dr Abujundi fought “tooth and nail” to get out of Gaza and study to be a medical doctor on a scholarship.
“He is the sole breadwinner which makes him the head of the family and he does everything he possibly can. He is a good-natured, caring humanitarian. He has always been hardworking and a very honest human being.
“Dr Abujundi comes from a family of medical professionals. He has four sisters – one is a doctor, and one is a nurse. Two younger girls, one is still in school, and the other had just graduated and is hoping to pursue her career in nursing and he has three brothers (all younger, one went to Cuba to be a doctor, while one is working in Gaza and the youngest brother is late,” she said.
Dr Reddy said one sister had been working in the hospital throughout the war. Despite the unsafe conditions at the hospital, she still goes to help the needy and the frail. They all provide a helping hand to the community wherever they can, and Dr Abujundi tries desperately to provide for the family in whatever he can. Many seriously wounded Palestinians from the Gaza Strip were allowed to leave for Egypt.
She said: “They barely get food to eat, whatever they do get is so extremely expensive, but they are surviving by the tips of their fingernails and through the grace of God.”
In a report by the United Nations Development Programme, the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia warned that almost umpteen years of human development could be wiped out. The report said if the war continues the poverty rate is expected to treble.
Latest stats show that there are about 1.9 million Palestinians who were displaced in the Israeli-Hamas war.
Dr Reddy said the situation is deplorable, and the unprecedented loss of innocent lives, and human suffering is unacceptable in Gaza. The lack of health care and life-saving aid to civilians is tantamount to a holocaust in the Gaza Strip. A ceasefire and a flow of humanitarian aid will bring change to thousands of Palestinian families, she opined.
For almost two weeks all communications In Palestine were cut. Dr Abujundi was able to relay the latest story.
She said: “When Dr Abujundi managed to finally get internet access, he only managed to talk to her for five minutes to inform her he was alive, but barely. The situation has escalated so terribly since the war.
“They were in their home in Khan Younis and the Israeli Defence Force had surrounded them and began shooting aimlessly at all the houses and bombs reigned around them. They managed to survive by hiding. In the morning they gathered whatever they could and started walking to the Rafah Border five kilometres from their house.
“They were trudging along on one side of the road and whoever stopped or was too slow was being shot by the Israeli army.
“Families were being killed and they were not allowed to stop or help the needy or they faced the bullet,” Dr Reddy said.
She went on to say. “It was cold and raining, Dr Abujundi was carrying food and essentials. He was not able to carry it all for five kilometers under those harsh conditions. He was forced to drop off some of their essentials and belongings to continue the journey to safety. He is now in the refugee camp. But he is too afraid, and he does not think he can survive for much longer.
“I made him make a solemn promise to me at the beginning of all of this: he will do whatever he can to survive, and he has kept his promise. He says his promise is the only thing that kept him fighting for survival for so long, but he is starting to lose hope and give up. The last time I spoke to him was several days ago.
“He walked around Rafah for two hours just to be able to talk to me for less than a minute. He’s exhausted from fighting to survive. They all are. I reached out to his sister; she is working in the European hospital. She says that the family is living on the shore of the sea while she is living in the local hospital. They have no internet access on the shore. She says it is raining a lot, the makeshift tents are getting flooded. Currently, it’s winter there now, and living closer to the sea is making it much colder for them with insufficient warmth, Dr Reddy exclaimed.
She said: “Food is extremely scarce and expensive. Not everyone is getting humanitarian aid. Dr Abujundi had been diagnosed with food poisoning and could not get access to medication or sufficient bathroom facilities. There is not enough clean water either, they walk a long distance to carry bottles of water, However, it’s not enough so they collect and rely on rainwater. I know the situation is extremely bad for everyone in Gaza and everyone needs help.
“This is the story I know personally and know I can help. This is someone I’ve completed my degree with, we’ve been through struggles together and he’s always been unwavering in being there whenever I needed someone. I know the kind-hearted person he is and reaches out to help people without it ever. Testimonies from people will reveal to you the kind and hardworking man he is.
“I can’t bear to sit and just watch him, and his family suffer through this anymore. I am trying to use my voice to get them help when their voice has been cut off from the world. I spoke to them, and they’ve expressed their desperate desire to leave Gaza and get to safety and a better environment and have a better quality of life where essentials are readily available. So, I have started campaigning to raise funds in the hope of getting them to safety in another country. They can flee but they are unable to afford it. The money raised will be paying for their safe passage through the Rafah border, plane tickets if needed, accommodation, and initial living costs as they establish themselves in a new environment,” added Dr Reddy.
A recent International Court of Justice in the Hague issued a ruling on the emergency measures against Israel in the conflict in Gaza. The court had instructed Israel to take steps to prevent acts of genocide in Gaza. The genocide case was instituted by South Africa.
Gaza has been described as a narrow strip of land centrally located between Israel and the Mediterranean Sea, with a short Southern Border with Egypt.